I was asked to work more slowly so others don’t look bad, the purpose of a mentor, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was asked to work more slowly so other people don’t look bad

I work in an editorial position for a major healthcare organization. I’ve been here about six months, I’ve gotten great feedback from my boss and coworkers, and I’m really enjoying being here. I’ve been particularly praised for my very quick turnaround and accurate work.

My boss’s boss spoke with me this morning, and he had a different take. While he said he’s heard my work is accurate, he’s concerned with how quickly I’m performing it. Essentially, he is concerned that if another member of the editorial team is asked to complete a task, they might not complete it as quickly as I can, and the requester might wonder why another member of the team can’t get it done as fast as I can. He asked that I do my editing work, save it, then look at it 30 minutes later, and THEN send it back.

Um, what? I’m being reprimanded for being TOO good at my job? Am I nuts for thinking he’s nuts?

Well, to be fair, it doesn’t sound you’re being reprimanded. You’re being asked to adjust a work habit to help manage other departments’ expectations. That’s not crazy on its face, but it’s crazy in this particular application, because he’s basically telling you not to let people know how fast you are (and that others aren’t as good as you).

I’d talk to your direct manager, explain what her boss asked you, explain your concerns, and see what she says. But if she’s on board with this, then you pretty much have to proceed that way. On the bright side, you now have a great piece of evidence that you’re faster than everyone else, which can be used in future interviews, if you’re delicate in how you present it.

One more thing: The instructions to save your work, then look at it 30 minutes later, and then send it back raise the possibility that your boss’s boss has concerns about accuracy or thinks that you’ll be able to improve the work on that second look. It’s worth getting clarification about whether he was burying that type of concern in what he said to you.

2. What’s the purpose of a mentor?

For so much of my working life, I’ve always just had my “job,” but with five years with my current company I can finally see a career path and a desire to move up (I have no formal qualifications and assumed near entry-level would be my lot in life).

You discuss mentoring fairly regularly, and I don’t know if it’s a country thing (I’m Aussie) but I’ve had very little exposure to the concept. I was wondering what makes a mentor, and what differentiates a mentor and someone you just regularly complain to? In my role, I’m a project-based employee, and usually that means I rarely work side-by-side with another person in my role. Usually there is just one of us on each project site (physical site), and so with colleagues all conversation usually degenerates into us each blowing off steam and venting about our frustrations on our individual projects. This is often the case with discussions with people a level above us too, as our frustrations are similar. So should I look higher in the ranks for a mentor? Our business is so varied that I would be a bit worried they would lose relevance to my job, but I understand my boss’ boss shouldn’t be a mentor either.

Mentoring definitely isn’t about venting. Mentors can give you advice on workplace and career issues and can provide a sounding board as you try to figure things out. For instance, you might blow off steam with a coworker about your annoying boss (although that’s not a great idea to do regularly, because it can become toxic and make you even more unhappy), but you might talk to a mentor about strategies for working well with that boss and seek her advice on what would and wouldn’t be effective.

Ideally your mentors are people a bit ahead of you in their careers — so that they have more experience and a different vantage point than you have. Your boss’s boss isn’t usually the right pick (since you want to be able to speak freely, even when it doesn’t reflect well on you or your boss), but I’d think about other contacts in your field.

Here are some articles that might shed a little more light.

3. Mentioning a journal article that I haven’t had published yet

I work for Organization X, and with a more senior colleague, am writing an invited publication to be put out in the journal produced by Organization Y. The publication contains confidential data and cannot be sent to Organization Y until our policy office at Organization X gives it their approval.

My dilemma is, Organization Y is hiring a full-time writer for this journal. I would love to work for them but I’m torn about whether or not to mention the upcoming publication in my application materials. It feels awkward to say, “You should hire me because I’m already writing an article for you–but I can’t share it yet!” They have no assurance that this article will be any good (it will be but I can’t expect them to take that on faith). I have other writing samples to share, but as this is a piece specifically for their journal it seems like a missed opportunity not to mention it. I have considered stripping out the confidential data but that’s not an option as the data analysis is the entire focus of the article. Do I mention I am writing this article or keep it to myself for now?

I don’t see any problem with mentioning it, but I don’t see how it helps you in any significant way since they can’t see it yet and presumably haven’t accepted it yet. So it’s fine to mention, but I would do so only in passing — not as an argument that you particularly lean on for your candidacy.

4. Explaining why I’m moving, when I’m following my boyfriend

My boyfriend is going to be starting graduate school out of state, and I will be leaving my current job to move with him. I’m reluctant to provide this as my reason for quitting when the time comes, however, as it just sounds childish to me to refer to “my boyfriend” in a professional context. Though we live together and have been together for 4 years, I don’t feel like attributing a career move to him will be taken seriously since we are not engaged or married. I happen to have a lot of issues with management, my work, and coworkers in this position and am happy to have the opportunity to move on anyway, but I’d prefer to leave my employer thinking, “She was great, too bad she had to move.”

Is there a professional way to convey my reason for leaving that will hopefully prevent inappropriate questions (one of my issues with management) and leave a better impression than talking about my personal life?

“I’ve decided to move to ___ to be closer to family.” If you’re moving with him, it’s not a stretch to put your boyfriend in the “family” category.

5. What’s up with this unprofessional interviewer?

I had a fairly unprofessional interview experience recently. The manager texted me for communication before the interview (we’ve never spoken) and was pretty inconsistent in following through with dates and times we agreed to speak. The experience left me questioning his level of professionalism, so I googled him, only to find more unprofessionalism in his profile on social media sites.

I would really like this job and I am shocked that a growing company recently acquired by a large public corporation would have someone respond to applicants in the way I was approached. I’ve concluded that I will continue with the process as long as they allow it to continue and make my judgments if I get an actual offer. That being said, do you think a company might relax their interview approach to see how you respond? I take my work very seriously and although I love to have a good time, I believe there is a time and a place.

This guy isn’t doing this intentionally to see how you respond; this is how he operates. What you’re learning about him is that he’s unprofessional, disorganized, and has bad judgment — something that exists in large public corporations as well as small places. You might end up deciding you’re willing to take the job anyway (everyone makes their calculations on stuff like this differently), but make sure you go into it with your eyes open about who this guy is.

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